Imelda Marcos biography
Born in the Philippines in 1929, Imelda Marcos went to Catholic girls school in Tacloban. She married politician Ferdinand Marcos in 1954. Marcos became the first lady of the Philippines in 1965. While her husband held office, she had several government positions. In 1986, Marcos and her husband fled the country. She eventually returned home and was elected to the national congress in 1995, and again in 2010.
Born on July 2, 1929, in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos is best known as the former first lady of the Philippines. First, however, she was Imelda Remedios Visitacion Romualdez, the oldest daughter of a lawyer and a homemaker. She grew up with her five younger siblings and several older half-siblings from her father's first marriage.
Marcos experienced a number of hardships at a young age. She lost her mother to pneumonia in 1938, and her father's law practice fizzled out around the same time. He then moved to the family to Leyte, his home province. The family continued to struggle financially. To put food on the table, Marcos sold off a small diamond from a necklace of her mother's whenever money was tight. Marcos attended an all-girls school called Holy Infant Academy in Tacloban. She studied English there, among other subjects.
In the early 1950s, Marcos moved to Manila to live with a cousin. There, she met a young politician on the rise named Ferdinand Marcos. Only 11 days after meeting each other, Imelda and Ferdinand married in a small civil ceremony. The couple then threw themselves an elaborate bash for friends and family a month later.
As her husband climbed the country's political ladder, Imelda Marcos cared for the couple's growing family. They eventually had three children together: Imee, Irene and Ferdinand Jr., also known as "Bongbong." Ferdinand was elected president in 1965, and Imelda, with her beauty and poise, soon drew comparisons to another famous first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.
In her role as first lady, Marcos met a diverse mix of world leaders, from U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, to Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. She sought out political opportunities for herself in addition to supporting her spouse. In the mid-1970s, Marcos served as governor of the metro Manila area. She spearheaded many costly beautification and development projects. Marcos later served in the interim national assembly and as the minister of human settlements.
While many Filipinos lived in poverty, Imelda Marcos became known for her lavish spending. She traveled to New York City and other destinations to buy expensive fashions, high-end jewelry and other luxury items. Marcos had to have the finest of everything for the presidential residence—the Malacañang Palace. But all of this splendor was gained at the cost of the Filipino people. It is believed that the Marcos family and their cronies took billions from the country's coffers.
In addition to theft and corruption, the Marcos regime also known for its oppressive rule.
Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, basically making himself the country's dictator. This move allowed him to crush growing resentment among the people and prevent his adversaries from unseating him from power. The Marcos government could be brutal to those who opposed it. Some were tortured and others were executed without trial.
With assassination of vocal Marcos opponent Benigno Aquino in 1983, the Marcos government began to lose its hold over the Filipino people. Imelda ended up fleeing the country with her husband after he was forced from office by the "people power" movement in 1986. In the rush to leave, she left many items behind at the presidential palace. Her impressive collection of roughly 1,200 pairs of designer shoes made headlines. These fancy pieces of footwear became international symbol of the former ruling couple's flamboyant spending habits and wealth.
Life in Exile
Marcos and her husband eventually settled in Hawaii. The pair seemed to live quite comfortably despite facing legal problems and pressure to return the funds allegedly plundered from the Philippine government. Not long after her husband's death in 1989, Imelda Marcos faced fraud and racketeering charges in an American court. Marcos was charged in connection with the misappropriation of roughly $200 million from her country, which was used to buy real estate in New York City. Heiress Doris Duke posted the bail for Marcos and actor George Hamilton testified in her defense. Marcos was acquitted in this case.
In 1991, Marcos returned to the Philippines. She was allowed to come back to her native country because the government hoped to recoup some lost funds held by Marcos. Marcos soon sought political power for herself, running for president the following year. Marcos lost her election bid to military leader Fidel V. Ramos and soon found herself in another court battle. Convicted on corruption charges in 1993, she received a lengthy prison sentence. But her conviction was later overturned.
A first lady no longer, Marcos has struck out on her own as a political force. She won her first election since returning from exile in the mid-1990s. Marcos served as a member of the House of Representatives for several years. In 2010, she won election to become the representative for Ilocos Norte province. This area is where her late husband was born and where the Marcos family still wields some political clout. Two of her children are in politics as well. Her daughter Imee won the post of governor of Ilocos Norte in 2010, and her son Ferdinand Jr., or "Bongbong," was elected to the country's senate that same year.
Marcos, however, may never fully emerge from the shadows of her past. She continues to face legal challenges regarding funds allegedly taken from the Philippine government. Some estimates indicate that the Marcos family amassed a roughly $10 billion fortune during their time in power.